Lectionary Commentaries for August 18, 2013
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 12:49-56

Emerson Powery

On April 15, 2013, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

I was reflecting on this passage during that same week. As I write, the perpetrators — assuming it was more than one individual — have yet to be caught. The initial debate that circulated in the media was whether to use the language of terrorism for this needless act. Concern for public reaction was part of the dilemma. What was circulating — whatever terms are used for this threat — was a general sense of fear. Not fear as in a fear for one’s life but a sense of fear that this is the new context in which U.S. citizens live. It was a fear of the unknown that could wreak havoc at any moment at any place during any major event.

The most troubling statement in this passage appears in 12:51. Did Jesus not come to bring peace? Was Jesus not the “savior” of Zechariah’s prophecy, the messianic figure who would “guide our feet into the way of peace” (1:79)? In Matthew, the parallel verses fall in the context of Jesus’ “mission” teaching to the disciples (cf. 10:34-36); in that context, the use of the term “sword” and the language of “enemies,” make Matthew’s Jesus appear more militaristic. But Luke’s Jesus is less so.

As this passage suggests, the opposite of peace, in Jesus’ teaching, is not “war” but “division” (diameriosmos). And, this division is of a specific kind: Jesus’ coming has created much conflict within families, synagogues, and the larger public arena. Certainly, by the author’s time (a couple of generations after Jesus’ death), he has experienced or heard about the break-up of close-knit networks. Even these divisions, however, are ominous sounding since divided houses usually do not survive (cf. 11:17-18).

Here, we get a glimpse of the apocalyptic Jesus, rarely discussed in the Gospels. Does Jesus really desire to scorch the earth (cf. 12:49)? Probably not! This seems to be one of Jesus’ many uses of hyperbole, common in his teaching. But why is Jesus so dramatic? Well, he rarely gets stressed (cf. 12:50). His awareness of the upcoming death (i.e., “baptism”; cf. Mark 10:38-39; Romans 6:4) seems to be getting to him.

The term “stress” is from the Greek verb (syn-echo), and may also be translated as “distressed.” It has the meaning of “holding together,” “holding tightly” or “squeezing.” In Luke’s Gospel it is associated with “sickness,” like “holding on to a fever” (cf. 4:38), or, stressful situations, like holding on to fear (cf. 8:37). Or, sometimes Luke uses the term to describe crowds or enemies “pressing in” on others (cf. 8:45; 19:43; 22:63). Only Luke uses this term to describe how Jesus is feeling. The NRSV’s “what stress I am under” captures the verb well.

Furthermore, Jesus recognizes how this stress is causing a shift in his own mission. “From now on,” he says, in verse 52. So, Jesus turns to violent images of “masters” in his parables to Peter and the other disciples (cf. 12:35-48) and forewarnings about the need to avoid judges (cf. 12:54-59). This may not be an outright critique of the legal system in his day but Jesus appears to have little regard for “judges” with his eschatological outlook. He himself does not wish to play the role between quarreling brothers over inheritance rights (cf. 12:13-14) nor does he hesitate to tell parables in which “unjust judges” act (cf. 18:1-8). Jesus’ advice to settle out of court (cf. 12:58) is shared by Paul, although the apostle does not credit Jesus with his own advice (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:1-8). Jesus’ point for followers, in chapter 12, appears to be to settle their accounts on their own.

Finally, the ancients were apparently better at predicting weather patterns than we are (cf. 12:54-55), but were similar to us in their (in)ability to predict the future of God’s activity. But Jesus has higher expectations for them. And, he has even higher expectations for his disciples who have been entrusted with much (cf. Luke 12:48).  

So what?
What is stress doing to us all? Real stress can make us all a bit more apocalyptic wishing all kinds of strange scenarios, especially for those who (apparently) are causing our stress levels to increase.

On another note, do we ever think about the (negative) consequences of our words and actions? Do all benefit? Or, is there a privileging of “us” over against “them” … in the decisions at the local education boards? Perhaps Jesus was right: it may be preferable to settle with the “accuser” before you get to the county courthouse. It is counter-cultural for us to follow such advice, but perhaps that’s the point. Later, in a different context, Paul will give similar advice to the Corinthian Christians (cf. 1 Corinthians 6), even suggesting that it would be preferable to accept the wrong and swallow the loss.

The Jesus of this passage is a bit unsettling and we would do well to let him be so. It is easier, of course, to present the “meek and lowly” Jesus as the one who desires personal friendship with twenty-first century individuals. But that Jesus is not the one of Luke 12. The Gospels also present a Jesus who occasionally struggles with his mission, who expects his followers to understand the “season” they are in, and who leaves us with as many questions as answers. In a similar vein, there are many events in our contemporary setting that leave us with few answers.

First Reading

Commentary on Jeremiah 23:23-29

Richard W. Nysse

God is nearby, not far off.

Read and heard in isolation that affirmation can evoke multiple responses, many of which might evade the sting of Jeremiah’s challenge to readers and hearers, both ancient and current. In Jeremiah 23, the nearness of God is not a comfort. God is so near that there are no secret places. Rather than a refuge, here God’s nearness results in complete exposure. There are no secret places; there is no place that is out-of-sight.

What if the metaphor were reversed? What if God were far off? That might imply less exposure. Speech about God as creator, maker of heaven and earth, can seem less relational and intimate. But here it would also be no comfort. God fills heaven and earth and thus from that angle God is also pervasively present. Whether near or far, it means exposure, not refuge and comfort.

What is exposed? A false construal of reality. God has heard the prophets speaking words they have not been commissioned to speak. These prophets are not religious outsiders. They conform to the rubrics of prophetic speech. They speak in God’s name (“in my name”), not in the name of an alien deity. They know that proper prophetic speech does come from a realm other than their own imagination or intellect and thus they appeal to the realm of dreams. Dreams come unbidden as does proper prophetic speech. In fact, it is so unbidden that the prophetic books frequently introduce it with the phrase “Thus says the Lord.”

When the rhetorical format becomes customary, it is open to manipulation. The audience cannot depend on the form to determine the reliability of what is communicated. A deceitful heart can manipulate the accepted form to steer the audience in the wrong direction. Here the prophets who have hopeful words for the immediate future of Jerusalem are speaking what they wish to hear. Their dream for a good future is their own wishful thinking. The problem is not that they claim to have had a dream; dreams are not in-and-of themselves the problem. The problem is that the dream was not from God.

There is nothing disruptive about the revelation they claim. It fits the prophets’ own interests. If convincing, the people will continue to acknowledge their authority. Their social prestige is not threatened. Their status quo stays the same. Perhaps their reassurance of each other is a sign that their words are not from God. The first of deception may not be all that crass. Hoping their dreams are true but having a premonition that their self-construed conception of reality is crumbling, they seek reassurance from each other. Repetition among the likeminded can produce a modicum of certainty.

God expresses exasperation with these prophets, using the classic expression of lament: How long? Will they never turn back their hearts? The questions assume the answer that they never will. The earlier incursion by the Babylonians had brought about no change of heart. Calls for repentance had gone unheeded. The prophetic lies are relentless. They appear firmly entrenched in their hope-filled self-deception. But… No, there is no “but” in this text to suggest a silver lining. After all the bad news, there is no room for a homiletic turn that frequently starts with “but the good news is….”

But these dreaming prophets are not simply harming themselves. They mislead the general population. Their speech employs the name of God to lead people away from God. The true word for that time is a word of judgment, not a word of hope. If the people believe these prophets, they will not repent. What do the people have to fear if the future is good? False hope precludes repentance. The falsehood becomes even more acute if the true prophetic word is a non-contingent word of judgment.

Even though these prophets employing God’s name, not the name of an alien deity, they may as well be using the name of Baal. What they are saying will not lead to fidelity to God; it leads away from God. The God that actually exists is forgotten. If the false prophets lead the people to trust a deception, they have committed an act as reprehensible as leading their allegiance toward Baal. Leading the people away from God is the equivalent of leading to Baal. The name of the alternative may change from the past to the present, but the net result is still a false hope and therefore a false trust.

Where does the chapter leave us as readers? It leaves us with the issue of true and false prophesy unresolved in the present tense moment of the narrative action. There is no way for the initial audience to know who is speaking the truth. There is no formal difference. Stating that the false prophets speak their own dreams in contrast to Jeremiah who speaks the words compelled by divine command would not help the hearer distinguish a false dream from a true word. What is “straw” and what is “wheat” is not immediately evident.

Yet the metaphors used in the text do force a distinction and thus the question of allegiance does not go away. It is as though the text concedes the problem of distinction at the moment the contrasting messages are spoken. One will be straw and one will be wheat. We are not given the task to sort them out as if our future would be secured if we make the right choice. It is not a system to be gamed nor is it test of our powers of discernment. We will not make the judgment go away if we make the right choice.

The immediate future is judgment. The fire of the true prophet word will burn in judgment. The hammer will strike the rock to pieces. God may create future life from the ashes. God may build a future from the rubble the hammer creates. Those futures will be spoken elsewhere in the book of Jeremiah, but it is important not to facilely cancel the fiery, pulverizing word of this text with hopeful words elsewhere in the book. Those words of hope are spoken in the ashes and pulverized rock. They are a response to and within the reality of the exile asserted here; they are not an exemption from exile or any other harsh form of judgment. To declare exemption is to align with the dreaming prophets of Jeremiah 23.


Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Isaiah 5:1-7

David G. Garber, Jr.

In the classical show tune, “My Funny Valentine,” Billie Smith sings an ironic love song, describing her lover’s imperfections:
“Your looks are laughable, unphotographable, yet you’re my favorite work of art.” 

Despite these many imperfections, or perhaps even because of them, Billie encourages Val, “But don’t you change one hair for me, not if you care for me. Stay little valentine stay. Each day is valentine’s day.”1

Music remains one of the most poignant ways in which to express love. This was also the case in ancient Israel and Judah. Isaiah 5:1-7 plays on the genre of a love song, once again using the marriage motif to describe the relationship between God and God’s people. Yet the irony here cuts more to the quick than it does in “My Funny Valentine.” In this passage, the prophet recomposes the love song into a lament over the nation’s betrayal of God’s principles.

The prophet uses the metaphor of the constant care of the vinedresser for the vineyard as the primary trope throughout this passage. First, the prophet recounts the vinedresser’s tender care and hard work in the vineyard. The song describes the cultivation of the land, the planting of the best stock of vines, and the construction of a protective watchtower and a perfect wine press. Despite even the Divine Vinedresser’s best efforts, the vineyard yielded “wild grapes” (beu’shim). The term suggests that not only are the grapes unusable, but that they emit a rancid odor.

God asks the people of Judah to judge for themselves what they think should be done with the stench of such an offensive, unproductive vineyard. Here we glimpse God’s inward emotional frustration at the detestable fruits of Divine labor: “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” (verse 4).

In response to this frustration, God continues to use agricultural imagery to describe the devastation that he will wreak on this despicable vineyard. Verses 5-6 negatively mirror verse 2. Instead of building a watchtower for the vineyard, God will remove its protective hedge, allowing it to be ravaged by the wild. Instead of planting choice vines, God will allow briars and thorns to overtake the vineyard. God will neither till the soil nor prune the vines. God will hold back even the rain from the vineyard so that it will languish in drought.

In verse 7, the prophet translates the metaphor: the vineyard is the house of Israel and its vines are the people of Judah. The prophet punctuates the metaphor with two puns in Hebrew. First, the sweet wine that God desires was justice (mishpat), but instead, the people produced bloodshed (mishpach). The latter term has caused many interpretive problems and may be related to the Arabic term which means “to spill,” or alternatively, “to spill blood.”2 Given the scope of the metaphor, and assuming the wine produced was red, there could be further play on the imagery of bloodshed in comparison to the dripping of red wine.

Second, God also anticipates “righteousness” (tsedeqah) but has instead heard only a “cry” (tse‘aqah). The latter term in this pun recalls the outcry against the violent people of Sodom (Genesis 18:21; 19:13) as well as the cry of the Hebrew people in light of the abuse of their taskmasters (Exodus 3:7-9).

Unlike “My Funny Valentine,” in this passage, God describes all of the attributes that God granted to the people of Judah that should have yielded the perfect wine of justice and righteousness in their society. Despite all of their divinely-granted privileges, however, the people snubbed justice for bloodshed and righteousness for the wailing of the oppressed. The bitter irony in God’s mournful lament results in the divine rejection and punishment of God’s people.

Within the context of Isaiah, one can easily discern the types of injustices that Judah perpetrated: they do not defend the cause of the widow and orphan (1:23), they coveted and stored up wealth for themselves (1:29), they oppressed the poor (3:14-15), they acquitted the guilty and deprived the innocent of their rights (5:23).

Many who choose to preach on this text may find themselves preaching in a congregational setting of similar privilege. Indeed, the ideals of justice and injustice in our society are ever more apparent in the cacophonous media. High-profile court cases and media coverage of war abroad and poverty within indeed amplify the cries of injustice in our society. In congregations of privilege, this passage becomes a challenge. Are we using our privilege to produce the sweet wine of justice in our society? Or does our propensity to cower behind privilege result in the stench of injustice that will ultimately repulse the God whom we claim to worship? Do we set out on quests for righteousness in our society, or are our actions representing the Church creating more harm than good?

Some, however, might find themselves preaching in a congregational setting of disenfranchisement. In this setting, God’s words of condemnation towards the comfortable actually might be words of hope in the ears of the oppressed. Just as God heard the outcry of the oppressed in Egypt, God hears the cry of the oppressed today and is indignant. God intends to use God’s people to promote justice and equity. We can echo God’s love and care for the church by carefully cultivating justice in our society.


1Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, “My Funny Valentine,” from the 1937 musical Babes in Arms.

2Wildberger, Hans. Isaiah 1-12: A Continental Commentary, trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 185.


Commentary on Psalm 82:1-8

James K. Mead

“The gods may be crazy . . . but they are definitely unjust!”

Psalm 82 is the shortest of the psalms I have commented on these four weeks, but it is far and away the most difficult to interpret. The volume of scholarly literature is enormous, and not simply because scholars like to get published. The interpretive challenges are real, but the reward for engaging them is substantial.

Pastors and worship leaders who tackle Psalm 82 for this Sunday will be blessed by one of the most theologically profound texts in the Psalter, and perhaps in the whole Bible.1 There really is something here for everyone: questions about the origins of Israel’s religion, connections to the prophetic witness for justice, affirmation of God’s involvement in human history, and links to the theology of the New Testament.

For these reasons, one is hard-pressed to know where to begin and end the exegetical journey, much less the eventual homiletical product. The good news is that while interpreters sharply disagree over the background and meaning of the Lord’s relationship with the “gods” of Psalm 82, they generally agree on the eventual destination — namely, that the one, true God is unfailingly committed to justice for the most vulnerable of earth’s inhabitants.

Therefore, my advice is that sermons based on this psalm should inform the congregation about the possible strands of meaning without feeling the need to tie up all their loose ends.2 The psalm seems to invite this holistic view based on its consistent poetical use of sounds and wordplay and by a carefully ordered structure:

A God stands and judges in the assembly of the gods (verse 1)
B The gods are confronted over their injustice (verses 2-4)
C The chaos left by the gods is described (verse 5)
B’ The gods are confronted with their mortality (verses 6-7)
A’ God is asked to rise in the assembly and judge the earth (verse 8)3

The structural coherence of the poem’s final form encourages us to draw several themes together in a developing portrait of God’s desire for a just world.

First, the psalm asserts the supreme authority of God over every supernatural power. A major interpretive crux of Psalm 82 has been the identity of “the gods” in verse 1b, a literal translation from the Hebrew ’elohim. This word, of course, can be taken in the singular (“God”) as in the first line of the psalm or in the plural (“gods”) as in the second line of the psalm. Over 2,000 years of biblical interpretation have witnessed at least four major understandings of the term:

a)    Rabbinic interpretation tended to see the “gods” as the Israelite community that received the law at Sinai. This evokes Jesus’ allusion to “those to whom the word of God came” in John 10:35.4

b)    From patristic times, the “gods” were thought to be human judges, based on possible readings of Exodus 21:6 and 22:8.5

c)     The Old Testament occasionally uses the term, “sons of God” to refer to angelic beings (Genesis 6:4; Job 1:6), some of whom appear to rule as princes over nations (Daniel 10:13, 20-21).6

d)    Closely related to the angelic interpretation is one based on ancient Near Eastern mythology — namely that “gods” refers to an assembly of divine beings ruled over by God, who is supreme creator and sovereign. These divine beings were appointed by God to be responsible for the just rule of the nations, as in Deuteronomy 32:8, “When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods.”

While this view may be the most difficult for traditional congregations to grasp, it seems to be the view that best interprets the psalm in its original context and one that exalts the lordship of Israel’s God more than other views.

Second, the psalm’s ultimate subject matter is “the weak and the orphan . . . the lowly and the destitute . . . and the needy” (verses 3-4), who in all likelihood are the ones suffering from a lack of knowledge and understanding (verse 5).7 Their suffering is at the heart of the psalm and of the God whose judgment is invoked by verse 8. God’s indignation is compounded because the unjust administration of the “gods” has directly benefitted “the wicked,” who serve as the human tormentors of the sufferers delivered into their hands (verses 2 & 4).

The cosmic implications of injustice are great, given the shaking of the earth’s foundations. As Brent Strawn writes, “In this highly artful and poetic way, the poem unites heaven and earth showing how what is done in heaven’s highest realms affects earth’s lowliest denizens.”8

Third, uniting the message of points one and two, the psalm’s theology reaches forward into the biblical drama, as New Testament authors recognized Jesus as the rightful Lord, the Son of God himself who will ultimately judge all matters. In spite of the complicated exegesis of John 10’s use of Psalm 82, there is no question that Jesus considers himself God’s Son who “is doing the works of [his] Father” (John 10:37).

The ministry of the Incarnate Lord is God’s complete and final answer to the challenge of verse 8, that God would respond to injustice among the inhabitants of his creation by himself rising to enact justice on behalf of victims of the wicked. Our belief that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19) is the good news we proclaim; his are the good works we perform.

1 J. Clinton McCann, “The Single Most Important Text in the Entire Bible: Toward a Theology of the Psalms” in Soundings in the Theology of the Psalms: Perspectives and Methods in Contemporary Scholarship, ed. Rolf A. Jacobson (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), 63-75.

2 Brent A. Strawn, “The Poetics of Psalm 82: Three Critical Notes along with a Plea for the Poetic,” Revue Biblique (forthcoming); used with the author’s permission.

3 This structure is based on Lowell K. Handy, “Sounds, Words and Meanings in Psalm 82” JSOT 47 (1990): 51-66.

4 For a good review of this and all the interpretations, see Jerome H. Neyrey, “’I Said: You are Gods’: Psalm 82:6 and John 10,” JBL 108 (1989): 647-663.

5 Konrad Schaefer, Psalms. Berit Olam (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2001).

6 For a discussion of this, see Craig C. Broyles, Psalms. NIBC (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 336.

7 Strawn, “The Poetics of Psalm 82.”

8 Ibid.

Second Reading

Commentary on Hebrews 11:29—12:2

Erik Heen

This week’s second lesson continues the reading of Chapter 11 of Hebrews begun last week.

The focus of last week’s selections (11:1-3, 8-16) was the faith of Abraham and Sarah. Today’s text follows a similarly expansive review of the faith of Moses that began in verse 23. Once the text leaves Moses, however, the examples of those who lived “by faith” fly by in rapid fashion as “time fails” the narrator (verse 32).

The sketches are quickly done with imaginatively broad-brush strokes. It is not always clear which OT heroes and heroines of the faith the text has in mind. Interestingly, as Sarah was lifted up in last week’s text as an exemplar of faith, women again figure prominently in this week’s narrative. Rahab “the prostitute” (verse 31) is singled out for special honors as well as are the women who “received their dead by resurrection” (verse 35), presumably referring to the mothers whose children were raised by Elijah and Elisha.

With regard to Rahab, the NRSV’s alternative translation is preferred: “Rahab … did not perish with those who were unbelieving (i.e., in the promises of God).” Rahab’s saving grace was that, because of her belief in the promised future of God’s people, she “received the (Israelite) spies in peace” (verse 31). This reception of holy spies/strangers by a Canannite whore is a jarring example of Hebrews’ understanding of faith that, among other things, leads to the practice of radical hospitality (explicitly commended in 13:1).

In its own way this illustration of the “faith” of Rahab is as transgressive as is Hebrews’ understanding that the Cannanite priest/king Melchizedek (rather than Aaron) establishes the “order” of Christ’s priesthood (5:6). Marginal outsiders become core identifiers of not only Christian identity (Rahab) but Christ himself (Melchizedek). Abraham was not the only ancestor who, though “as good as dead,” through faith gave birth to descendants “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore” (11:12).

In verse 32, Chapter 11’s eclectic list of the heroes of faith includes some from among the Judges of Israel (Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, Samuel), one commissioned by a Judge (Barak), David, as well as the prophets. Verse 33 begins a run of heroic activities that are not clearly attached to the names. Who, for example, “shut the mouths of lions”? Was it Daniel of lion’s den fame (not mentioned in the list by name)? Or perhaps Samson or David? Similarly, the descriptions of the various forms of abuse the saints of God endured beginning at verse 35 (torture, mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment, stoning, being sawn in two, killed by the sword, etc.) are not linked to specific figures.

In fact, exegetes are hard-pressed to come up with OT referents for some of the details of the descriptions (e.g., “sawn in two” verse 37?), though the majority feels that the recitation ends with an encomium to the Maccabean martyrs. Yet the fact that most of the faithful witnesses remain nameless (and are thus characterized only by their struggles) is no doubt intentional. By the end of the passage one is persuaded not only of the great numbers of those of faith that have gone before, but the strong and quite creative endurance of this long chain of witnesses “of whom the world was not worthy” (verse 38). Somewhat hidden behind this list, of course, is a God who is both worthy of such loyalty and the one actually equipping people with the faith that makes resistance to the enemies of God possible, the foremost of which is suffering that leads to death.

Then comes this remarkable claim: that for all of their greatness, these saints of faith did not receive what was promised. Their completion — their “perfection” — awaited the in-breaking of God’s invisible Word in the incarnate Christ (1:2), his perfect sacrifice (1:3; 9:26; 10:12), and glorification at the right hand of God. In fact, their perfection still awaits the full realization of the “unshakable” kingdom of God that the present saints of God are in the process of receiving (12:28; cf. 9:28).

The pericope closes with an exhortation that employs an athletic metaphor, “Let us, therefore, run the race that is set before us” (12:1; cf. Philippians 3:12-15). Similar to the present day Olympic event, ancient marathon races could end in a stadium. A final lap would be made in the presence of onlookers (the “great cloud of witnesses,” 12:1) who are cheering the exhausted runners on. In Hebrews, the onlookers are the very saints of old described throughout Chapter 11, from Abel (“who still speaks,” 11:4) to the Maccabean martyrs. In the festive atmosphere of an Olympian celebration, they await the race’s end with eager anticipation.

Yet this race, the text reminds, is different from all others. The course has been marked by Christ, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” Only Jesus has run this course to its end, though by doing so has made it possible for all others to follow. The primary obstacle he faced, the shame of the cross (12:2), is vanquished by the power of the resurrection. In following the Christ crucified and risen, one is led through the obstacles of which life is full, including deep disgrace and suffering, and even death itself (10:38-40).

According to Hebrews, at the end of this race — this course of life — awaits Christ, enthroned “at the right hand of God” (12:2). It is into this “invisible” presence (11:2) we lean forward in faith as we run the course now set by Christ before us. When the last of the runners make it across the finish line, Hebrews suggests, the stands of the stadium will empty. The city of the living God, made up of “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” will form around the enthroned Christ and “innumerable angels in festal gathering” (12:22). Sin, suffering, death — all the enemies of God — will be no more. Remarkably, this on-going “perfect” worship of God is mediated a high priest who is Christ himself (6:20; 5:2).

It is striking that Hebrews’ exegesis of divine “service” does not end in this beatific vision of the goal of Christ’s victory over sin and death on the cross. In Chapter 13, while meditating on the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice is not offered in the holy precincts of the temple but on a Roman killing field “outside the camp,” Hebrews exhorts, “Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured” (13:13).

The (a) holy service to the enthroned Christ and the (b) cruciform service directed to our fellow humans in need are, somehow, bound together in the ongoing reconciliation God has effected in Christ. It is precisely for this worship of Christ — a service both holy and profane — that Hebrews invites us to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,” so that we might “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (12:1).